Smart cities promise to generate economic, social and environmental value through the seamless connection of urban services and infrastructure by digital technologies (Hollands 2008, Viitanen and Kingston 2014), but there is scant evidence concerning their ability to enhance social well-being, build just and equitable communities, reduce resource consumption and waste generation, improve environmental quality or lower carbon emissions (Cavada et al. 2015). This special issue addresses the gap between the pipedream and the practice of smart cities, focusing on the social and environmental dimensions of real smart city initiatives, and the possibilities that they hold for creating more equitable and progressive cities. We argue that social equity and environmental sustainability are neither a-priori absent nor de-facto present in technological designs of smart city initiatives, but have to be made, nurtured and maintained as they materialise in particular places. This is the ‘possibility’ alluded to in our title, and where the focus of the Special Issue on the gap between the pipedreams and practicalities of smart cities leads. In this introduction we unpack this argument in greater detail and situate our six contributions within it.
Advancing Urban Innovation: Living Labs for Sustainable Building and Planning